Police reported 598 homicides in Canada in 2011, 44 more than the year before and the first increase in homicide in three years, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.
The agency said the homicide rate was 1.73 per 100,000 population in 2011, seven per cent higher than in 2010, although the rate of firearms homicides fell to the lowest level in almost 50 years.
The rate of homicides involving handguns has also generally been declining since reaching a peak in 1991, although they account for about two-thirds of all firearm homicides.
Despite annual fluctuations, the overall homicide rate has remained relatively stable over the past decade, after a steady decline from the mid-1970s.
Most of the 2011 increase was accounted for by Alberta, which had 32 additional homicides, and Quebec, which had 21 more.
The homicide rate in Ontario, in contrast, hit its lowest point since 1966, with 28 fewer killings than in 2010.
Among the provinces, Manitoba reported the highest homicide rate for the fifth year in a row, followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Stabbings accounted for virtually the entire increase in homicides in 2011, with 39 more stabbings.
Overall, stabbings accounted for 35 per cent of homicides, firearms for 27 per cent, beatings for 22 per cent and strangulation for seven per cent.
Police considered 95 homicides to be gang-related in 2011, similar to 2010, but well below the peak of 138 reached in 2008. Gang homicides increased steadily from the early 1990s until 2008, before declining in both 2009 and 2010.
Victims typically know their killer. Among solved homicides in 2011, almost half were committed by an acquaintance or friend, one-third by a family member and only 15 per cent by a stranger.
Police reported 89 homicides involving intimate partners in 2011, including 76 female victims and 13 male victims. This resulted in a rate of 0.26 intimate partner homicides per 100,000 population, similar to the rate in recent years.
The rate of intimate partner homicides committed against females increased by 19 per cent in 2011.